The 1955 Chevy is a classic and marked a turning point for Chevrolet as they introduced the first successful small-block V-8 engine. With a displacement of only 265 cubic inches it still was one of the most powerful engines ever produced making up to 180 HP. Future variations of this engine with displacements of 283, 302, 350 and even 400 cubic inches have become legendary.
The first ’55 version had a few shortcomings, like the lack of a standard oil filter and problems with cracked pistons. They also required frequent changing of the points and plugs. As the engine evolved, it became a favorite of hot rodders and racers nationwide. New models of this motor are still being manufactured today as replacement engines, and they can be found in everything from Corvettes to pickup trucks.
But a visit to the National Automobile Museum in Reno will reveal that the first Chevy small-block motor was actually released in 1917 for the Chevrolet Series D. It generated just 36 horsepower from 288 cubic inches of displacement (the weakest 1955 model put out 162 brake horsepower). This first engine was far from a success, and 1917 was the only year it survived, being replaced by four and six-cylinder models for the next 37 years.